In this guide, we’re going to discuss how to avoid being ripped off or scammed when opening a claim with an auto insurance company.
Let’s start with a little story first, the dream of buying a new car.
Everyone dreams of the day when they can finally buy a new car. You drive it off the lot, and everything feels great! Then one day your lovely new car gets into an accident. Whether the accident is your fault or not it’s almost a 95% chance you’ll be dealing with some type of auto insurance claim to get the necessary collision repairs completed.
The big elephant in the room would ask the following question:
Will you know how to avoid getting scammed or ripped off by the insurance company?
In this article, you will learn how to avoid getting ripped off by finding and hiring a reputable auto body repair shop. I’ll also show you how to research the consumer laws regarding auto collision repair in your state.
With a little knowledge, you can beat the insurance company at their own game of cutting corners on the repair costs of your car. And prevent them from underpaying!
In my opinion, a good insurance company should be interested in fixing your car right and not saving money. So your not stuck thinking to yourself: “My car was not fixed properly after that insurance claim!”
But that only happens in a dream world.
What Are Your Car Accident Collision Repair Rights?
The first question that usually comes up after you file a claim with an auto insurance company is this:
Do I have to use the body shop the insurance company recommends?
The answer is an ABSOLUTE NO! (In California that is.)
At least in California, the state collision repair laws really favor the customer. But you’ll need to do some research for the state you live in regarding consumer rights for auto insurance collision repairs.
Since I live in California, I am able to find all of my legal rights at the
California Department of Insurance Website
You can do a search on Google for the insurance board in your state. Try a search string similar to this example: “state department of insurance.” Another great search you can do on Google is: “state collision repair laws.” Just make sure you enter the actual name of your State in the search.
The California Dept. of Insurance clearly states that I (as a consumer) have the legal right to choose my own body shop for getting my car fixed.
Even if the shop is not recommended by the insurance company that’s stuck paying the claim. Remember! You have the legal right to get your car fixed with 100% authentic original OEM parts. Do as much vetting as possible with the body shop to make sure they’re on your side more than helping the insurance company save money and cut corners.
Here is a list of qualities that all good auto-body repair shops should have. Especially, if you need collision repair insurance work done.
1) Does the auto body repair shop have a bad reputation online? You can verify on Angie’s List or Yelp. Regardless of how good the insurance company praises the auto body shop, do your own research. The body shop should have good reviews with only a few bad ones.
2) Is the owner of the body shop a fighter? Are they willing to take the time and fight with the insurance adjuster if the repairs are a bit more expensive than the insurance company wants to pay? So the job can get done right.
3) Make sure the body shop has good craftsmanship. Do they dread the thought of putting aftermarket parts on a new car that should have factory original OEM parts? Do they have an experienced auto-body painter on staff or do they contract that out to some random person?
4) Does the body shop also do work for cars without insurance? A body-shop that does not rely solely on doing insurance referral work is a great sign they’ll be more on your side and fight for your business to get the job done right!
If the above things check out for the auto body shop that was recommended to you by the insurance company, then it might be worth checking out. Especially if you think it’s the best body shop in your town and you know someone who had work done there too.
In the next section, I’m going to share a story about an auto insurance claim I recently had to file last year. But before we get to that, I want to share with you some valuable resources you can check out for more information about body-shops and Insurance Companies.
Articles from AngiesList:
This is what Ford had to say about original OEM parts on my Ford Mustang GT.
Read this! Think a Part Is Just a Part? Think Again
I’d imagine other car manufacturers would agree with Ford. Especially since using aftermarket parts could VOID YOUR NEW CARS WARRANTY!
My Story For Filing A Claim Against An Auto Insurance Company
Last year, my 2016 Ford Mustang GT was involved in a minor fender bender. Someone in an SUV backed up into the front right side while it was parked. I was pissed, to say the least, but I got the insurance information and was lucky the person at fault had no problem opening a claim for my repairs.
Knowing to stay clear of auto body shops that get lots of referral work from the insurance companies I proceeded to do my own research. I was able to line up my own body shop close to home with good ratings on Social Media on Yelp.
I went in for my own estimate and talked to the owner. I really thought they were honest so I decided to give them the job.
Discussing the claim with Geico (the insurance company paying the collision repair costs) was a lot like talking with a collections agency.
Not a good experience at all! They treat you like they will not offer any help and make you feel like your car won’t get fixed if you don’t do everything they say. Like sending the vehicle to their top-rated body shop as a referral.
All the big Auto Insurance companies are like this. Basically, you’ll be treated like a second-class citizen if you go against any of their recommendations. Prompt service for having the repairs start or giving you access to a rental car will be non-existent.
To quickly get what you need and not be harassed too much, follow these steps:
1) I would not go more than 15 minutes on the phone with a first level claims specialist. After that, escalate to a supervisor.
2) During the first 15 minutes, you want just to cover the minimum information to get the ball rolling. Like a claim number and the basic facts of the accident on the phone. Then get off the phone and proceed to e-mail or online communication only.
3) Getting in touch with the assigned insurance adjuster is your best move. That way you can get them to your body shop and approve the repairs for the work to begin. Get their information as soon as you can. Sometimes you’ll be assigned one, and they’ll contact you shortly after the claim is opened.
The number one rule I learned about filing an auto insurance claim is that the further into the process you go, the quicker and easier everything gets. It’s almost like the auto insurance company knows you’re not a pushover, so they want to get the job done now and close the claim out ASAP!
Earlier I mentioned that the auto insurance company will treat you like a second-class citizen when you refuse to use their preferred body shop. In my case, I was highly pressured by the claims specialist. When I resisted, I was told that all the rental cars were already onsite at this specific body shop. And it was where the insurance adjuster was scheduled to work 99% of the time.
If I used another shop, it would take the adjuster five days to get there. The kicker was that my shop was right across the street.
What the heck? I said.
I got the adjuster’s phone number from the claims specialist. I then called the adjuster directly and had them out to view the car the next day. The claims adjuster is usually a lot more friendly and professional than your claims specialist too. Just part of a big game.
Quick Tip: I’d also like to mention that the online experience was not much better than the phone call. You see a few options for body shops that suit the insurance company only. There are 20 different body-shops in my town, you mean only 2 of them are on their approved list?
The day after the adjuster inspected the vehicle I was e-mailed an estimate and some photos of the damage. The quote between the insurance adjuster and my body shop’s estimate is about 700 dollars apart.
Later that week the adjuster sends me a claim letter saying they are unable to fix the car because of this $700 shortfall. With enough fighting from the owner of the body shop, the estimate was approved, and the work began with all OEM parts and high-quality labor.
The fighting went on for a few extra days, but it was worth it getting my car fixed correctly. YAY!
Insurance companies doing car collision repairs have a system to save money and cut corners. Unless you know the system and your legal rights for collision repairs in your state, you could get a run for your money.
Fight the system and show them you’re knowledgeable, they’ll gladly become helpful, pleasant and easy to work with to close your claim, sign it off, and fix your car. Then they’ll move on to the next claim where they can screw the next unsuspecting person. With a car to fix.